So a day trip it was, in pursuit of our beach outing for the year. The “beach” in question is Presque Isle -- actually a miles-long peninsula jutting into Lake Erie (as Fancy Nancy would say, “presque isle” means “almost an island” in French). It’s 130 miles and just about exactly two hours from Pittsburgh, almost all of which is on Interstate 79.
I decided not to pack lunches and instead to stop in Erie at Three B Saloon, (the three B's being beer, bacon and barbeque), where I’ve wanted to go since reading about it years ago in the Post-Gazette. It’s a few minutes out of the way and there are plenty of other places right on the way, but I’d do it again. There’s nothing like plopping three small children in bar stools and ordering a side of bacon after a long car ride. I also guzzled an excellent sweet tea while waiting for our food to be ready. And pulled pork sandwiches and macaroni and cheese make excellent beach blanket food (luckily I had brought plastic forks, because they didn’t have any -- also calling ahead was a good idea, because the macaroni and cheese and cornbread are cooked to order).
Driving to Presque Isle, we passed Erie attractions like Waldameer Park, which closed for the season on Labor Day, and the Tom Ridge Environmental Center. We could see the 13-mile multipurpose trail that loops around the peninsula, as well as bike and boat rental places. There’s also concession stands right at the beaches during the summer months. We did none of these things, heading straight for Beach 7, for absolutely no reason other than we went there last year.
The beach is ideal for little kids, of which we had many. My 3-year olds ran themselves silly, darting into the water and back, while my 1-year old got her sea legs sinking into the sand.
They then occupied themselves for hours digging and molding sand -- at which point it was high time to turn around and head back to Pittsburgh. We stopped at a McDonalds in Erie for a bathroom break and off we went.
The nice thing about a day trip is that virtually no planning ahead is required -- beach trips are weather dependent, and you can let the weather do your planning for you. We’ve done Presque Isle twice in mid-September, both with gorgeous (if windy this time) sunny days in the mid to upper 70s, and virtually empty beaches.
Next time we go, we may venture beyond Beach 7. I’ve read good things online about a cove on Beach 11 that’s good for little kids, and about the kites flown on Sunset Beach, between beaches 9 and 10. We’ll also probably bring our dog next time (another day trip plus) - dogs on leashes are allowed there.
Anya Sostek is a Post-Gazette reporter, mother of three and moderator of the PlayGround.